21W.016 | Fall 2016 | Undergraduate

Writing and Rhetoric: Designing Meaning

Essay 3

Visual Design for the MIT Homepage

This section contains details for the interrelated components to Essay 3: a web design for the MIT homepage, and an oral presentation of your web design. 

Visual Design for the MIT homepage:

Because the MIT homepage is a collaborative effort between the Institute, the MIT community as a whole, and even the public, it invites a constant dialogic reshaping of the image it presents. Your second task in this unit is to enter this dialogue, and to practice “rhetoric” in multiple media, by constructing an image for the MIT homepage. Based on your analysis for Essay 3, develop an image, a visual argument that persuades viewers to see MIT as you do. What have you experienced, what has been salient to you, that is not fully represented in MIT’s public image? What perspective (in its many senses) on MIT do you have to offer?

Some suggestions:

  • You could use your digital camera (or cellphone) to capture an image that has important connotative or symbolic meaning in relation to MIT, and then enhance or shape that image using Photoshop (or one of the free alternatives, such as Photoshop Express, Paint.NET, or GIMP).
  • You could sketch (by hand or using drawing or sketching software, such as Inkscape) the image you want to create. If you like, you could then either scan this to make it digital, or take a digital photo of the sketch (and also then enhance the image, using the software listed above).
  • You could construct an alternative MIT logo (perhaps build it out of MIT-ish objects, such as lab equipment or duct tape, or out of objects that you personally associate with MIT, such as oars or Diet Coke cans).

Whichever method you use, you should carefully consider the Rhetorical Elements we’ve discussed all semester:

  • PURPOSE: what claim will your visual make? How do you want to affect your viewer? How do you want your viewer to see MIT differently?

  • APPEALS: how will your visuals appeal to ethos, pathos, logos?

  • AUDIENCE AWARENESS: how will viewers outside as well as inside MIT understand the images, connotations, etc.?

  • ARRANGEMENT: how will viewers be drawn to certain elements, and how will they be prompted to look for/at other elements that are backgrounded? How do shapes and empty spaces structure and complement each other?

  • GENRE: what functions do the homepages perform? How will your image/page fit the genre? How will it adapt the genre to its own purposes?

Oral Presentation

Finally, this unit offers you the opportunity to make your own oral argument, which will take the form of a presentation of your webpage design. All presentations of this sort need to quickly explain:

  • The context and criteria (why did you design this? What are the general requirements? What are you hoping to achieve (and what was the need—the gap or problem into which you’re offering your design))?
  • The constraints (what were the limitations of the project? What technical constraints did you encounter?)
  • The approach (how did you go about this design? What methods did you use?)
  • An analysis of the results (why does the final product have the shape it does? What do you want us to see and remember about it? What’s significant about what you’ve produced?)

This argument should take no more than 10 minutes to present to the class. You should practice your presentation a number of times, so that you can easily articulate your ideas, and know that you can convey your argument in the allotted time.

Because you are presenting a visual image, you will need a way to make that image visible to your audience (and you may have other visuals, such as existing MIT homepage designs, that you’ll want to include as part of the context). PowerPoint is, of course, the standard here, but Keynote or Google slides or Prezi are also fine. Also, if you prepare a PowerPoint presentation, the slides should visually support your argument, but they should not substitute for your argument (i.e., don’t write your talk as a series of bullet points on PowerPoint slides).

Be prepared to answer questions for a few minutes after your talk.

Return to assignment guidelines for Essay 3

Course Info

As Taught In
Fall 2016
Learning Resource Types
Written Assignments with Examples